How Ukrainians Are Preparing to Lose Internet Access — Will Cold War 2.0 Break Out?

Ukrainians have been reportedly behaving as if they might soon lose Internet connection, rushing to download applications that allow for internet-free messaging. While there has been an influx of cryptocurrency donations to the country amidst its invasion, cryptocurrency usage is generally impossible without an internet connection.

Internet Outages Possible

In the modern-day, losing internet access can be catastrophic for those who have come to rely upon it; now, the people of Ukraine seem to think they too may soon experience such deprivation.

Per Forbes, in Ukraine, apps that permit basic services like communication and mapping without internet access are topping the downloads charts right now. Such applications utilize radio signals or Bluetooth for offline functionality, and are common when civil conditions deteriorate amid war or government crackdown; a similar surge in such downloads occurred in the 2019 Hong Kong protests, which were put down in part through forceful police intervention.

The increase in downloads suggests that Ukrainians fear either a loss of internet connectivity “or the closure of the free internet behind a new digital iron curtain.”

Parts of Ukraine’s third most populous city, Odesa, have already lost power, and Forbes’ sources indicated their expectation that Ukraine could lose power and Internet connectivity on a more widespread basis.

Since Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine began yesterday, an influx of cryptocurrency donations has flowed to various non-government organizations, volunteer groups, and charities within the nation, including more than $4 million for just one charity called Come Back Alive. Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense cited yesterday a significant influx of requests from foreigners wishing to donate, prompting it to set up a special bank account for just that. However, it noted it was legally barred from accepting cryptocurrency donations. Regardless, Ukrainian defense efforts have been bolstered by crypto donations for many months, with NGOs and volunteer groups in the country notching a 900% increase in crypto donations in 2021 compared to 2020.

While certain cryptocurrencies can be used in very limited circumstances of internet disconnectivity, cryptocurrency usage — while not impeded by authorities, as was perhaps showcased recently by Prime Minister Trudeau’s invocation of the Emergencies Act in Canada that would allow for the barring of financial transactions and the freezing of bank accounts — is reliant on an internet connection.

Internet loss is rarely indicative of an ideally-functioning society. Lebanon, which is suffering from one of the worst economic and financial collapses in 150 years, also suffers from increasingly common internet and power outages. Venezuela, also in dire economic straits, has notoriously lacked reliable access to the internet. Just last month, when the government of Kazakhstan blocked Bitcoin mining amidst power outages, it also blocked citizens’ internet access amid wider social unrest.

With the Internet’s vast potential for serving as a lifeline, its loss could be disastrous for the citizens of Ukraine.

Disclosure: At the time of writing, the author of this piece owned BTC, ETH, and several other cryptocurrencies.



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